Friday, 22 April 2016

Trams Return to Rangoon

In the article Rangoon Tramways, I posted a brief introduction to the electric tram system which once served Rangoon.

Electric trams are once again running in Rangoon, now called Yangon, and on Thursday, 21st April 2016 I made my first trip on the new system. The line runs along Strand Road from War Dan (to the West, where the Depot is located) with stops at Maw Tin, Sint Ohe Dan, Pagoda Road, Pan So Dan, Bo Ta Htaung, terminating at Lansdown.

Tram TCE 3001 at the Lansdown (Eastern) terminus).

A modern overhead conductor system has been provided, apparently fed from a single sub-station at War Dan. An insulated feeder carried on the concrete supports allows the bare conductor to be parallel-fed at intervals.

The tramway is standard gauge, running on a single dual-gauge track which it shares with the metre-gauge line serving the goods depots along Strand Road. There are a few interesting dual gauge turnouts.

I took lots of pictures which you can find here. I'll add information on the rolling stockas soon as possible.

[Post time revised to place in sequence 1-May-2016: Link to pictures added 7-May-2016]

Back in Yangon

Events of Wednesday, 20th April 2016

In earlier posts, I've described three hectic days in Mon State. At the end of the third day, we took the overnight bus back to Yangon, where I again stayed at the Doctor's house.

Events of Thursday, 21st April 2016

The Doctor prescribed a day of recovery for me (it has been awfully hot) and, for once, I was happy to comply. But I did manage to try out Yangon's new electric tram - there's a brief report here.

Tram TCE 3001 at the Lansdown (Eastern) terminus).

Events of Friday, 22nd April 2016

Early on Friday, Doctor Hla Tun left early to fly to Bagan Medical Clinic for the usual three days of consultations. On this occasion, I did not accompany him as the following day, I had arranged to spend a few days on a sailing boat. However, we had discovered that Aung Ko Latt (from Ko Dut in Mon State) had travelled to Yangon, so the Doctor had arranged for him to meet me.

Aung and I made a clockwise trip on the Circle Line together. No doubt a technical review will appear at some stage - The technical review can be found here.

The second-hand, Japanese-built Diesel Multiple Unit on which Aung and I made our Circle Line Trip.

On the way back to the Doctor's house, we made a stop at the Taw Winn Shopping Centre so that I could indulge my taste for reprinted old books about Burma written by the English.

I said 'good-bye' to Aung and prepared for another early start the following day, Saturday, 23rd April, when I was to fly south to Kawthaung to see a little of the far south of Burma.

Related posts

Next post describing this trip.

All my posts on this trip can be found here.

My pictures

Pictures of Yangon's new tram system are here.
Pictures of my trip on the Circle Line with Aung are here.

All my pictures on this trip are here.

[Link to Circle Line Pictures added 7-May-2016: Link to tram pictures added 11-May-2016: Link to technical review added 29-May-2016]

Mon State (day 3)

Events of Wednesday, 20th April 2016

Once again, we were up early and, having said goodbye to some of the young Ko Dut D.I.C. staff, we drove into the village with the D.I.C. manager for breakfast featuring rice noodles at a small lean-to roadside restaurant built outside the front wall of the owner's house. In the front yard of the house, a young girl was producing fresh noodles by squeezing the hot, cooked rice paste through a perforated plate, using a large set of 'pliers'. The Burmese value reliable, fresh sources of food. Fortified by breakfast, we said our final "good byes", left Ko Dut and headed back north. The Doctor had allowed time for us to visit the important pagoda built in the sea at Khaikhami Yele Paya since Myint and Mi Mi had not previously visited. I was once again reminded of my good fortune in having much better opportunities to see the country than most Burmese, since it was my fourth visit (I'd visited before in 2012 as described here and with Dr. Hla Tun in 2014 (as described in Last day in Mon State) and in 2015 (Visit to Mon State, Myanmar (Part 4). Although, as a non-Buddhist, it does not have the same resonance for me as for the many pilgrims I saw there, I never tire of being at this very special place.

Mi Mi at Khaikhami Yele Paya.

We then continued north to Mawlamyine and the Drop In Centre at Hlaing, situated in a crowded and poor area just outside the centre of Mawlamyine. A number of collapsible shelters had been erected outside the D.I.C. building and over 300 children were seated under these shelters, waiting for us (there are over 400 children 'on the books' but there are various reasons why they are rarely all present at one time).

The 'Sky Net' television news team (cameraman and female presenter) were there and I was asked to do a short piece to camera in English. I doubt if it was used. But they then conducted an interview of over 5 minutes with Dr. Hla Tun and a similar interview with the Centre Manager.

We know that these interviews were transmitted because, back in Yangon and by chance, we saw the latter part of the programme they'd made on national television.

At Hlaing, I also saw two newspaper journalists making copious notes and taking photographs. All the school uniforms and stationery had been put ready in the new school bags, year-by-year and separately for boys and girls. There were plenty of helpers to organise everything, so I found myself handing out the bags at high speed, wittering away in English, in the hope that it helped relax the children, some of whom were clearly over-awed by the occasion. The Doctor carried out the last 20 or so distributions as, by that time, I was perspiring freely.

Jan helping with the distribution at Hlaing D.I.C.

The children changed into their uniforms inside the D.I.C., some of the younger ones with help from the staff, and then, back outside under the shelters, the Doctor made a speech of encouragement. Some of the shelters were removed to make it easier to made a 'Group Shot' before the children left.

Hlaing D.I.C. - The 'Group Shot'.

Back inside the D.I.C., the Doctor made some specific financial awards to support deserving children and a number of the D.I.C. volunteers. There are so many stories of dedication and determination. We were moved by the story of one young woman with excellent language skills who had given up her full-time job with 'Care' and now undertakes part-time work so that she can look after eleven orphans.

The young woman on the right now looks after 11 orphans in Mawlamyine.

After lunch at a cafe in Mawlamyine, we had one more distribution at the smaller centre of 'Future Generation', also in Hlaing.

Then it was back to the Care Centre in Malamyine we'd stopped at (briefly, on our first arrival) where there was time to 'shower' (Burmese-style) before another meal in Mawlamyine. Since it was a bit of a walk, I was offered a lift on a motor-cycle (pillion, side=-saddle) which included the southern end of Strand Road I'd not seen before. After the meal, I managed to walk to the Care Centre where the car took The Doctor, Myint, Mi Mi and the writer to the Bus Station so that we could catch the 8.30 p.m. bus back to Yangon.

Related posts

Next post describing this trip.

All my posts on this trip can be found here.

My pictures

More pictures will be posted as soon as possible.

[Post date amended to place in sequence: 1-May-2016]

Mon State (day 2)

Events of Tuesday, 19th April 2016

I was a little restored by morning but I knew it would be a tiring day making presentations to the children attending Ko Dut DIC. Children were supposed to arrive at 8.00 a.m. but by 6.30 a.m. we could hear the excited chatter of early arrivals.Once we let the children in, the ground floor was soon crowded and the Doctor and I started distributing snacks, a school bag, exercise books, pencils, a short plastic ruler and pens, together with new school uniforms for the coming year.

The event, to which the children always look forward, was made extra special by a visit from the fairly young head monk from the local Buddhist monastery. He made a short speech of encouragement to the children and, after chatting with me in excellent English, left to carry out other appointments.

Presently, we all moved outside for the now traditional 'Group Shot' before the children returned to their homes using a variety of means (pedal bicycle, motor cycle driven by adult, motor rickshaw, pick-up or walking), all proudly carrying the items they'd received.

Ko Dut D.I.C. - The Group Shot.

The Doctor then had a meeting with the mainly female teachers and volunteers who run Ko Dut DIC.

We then drove to the smaller DIC at Lamine and repeated the performance. It might have been smaller, but our welcome was no less rousing and, as is customary, drinks, fruit and snacks were provided for the visitors. In addition to the distribution of school-related items, the Doctor made specific cash disbursements to alleviate hardship. It's sobering to note that a qualified teacher with up to 50 students may receive a salary of only 15 U.S. Dollars a month.

We drove to our last distribution of the day at another small DIC in the area. The benefits to these fairly remote country communities of the Drop In Centres should not be underestimated.

With the official business of the day complete, we drove to a large pagoda which Myint and Mi Mi had not previously visited. I'd visited the previous year so I could note progress, particularly on the large reclining Buddha image. I'm very conscious that I enjoy much better opportunities to travel around Myanmar that most local people.

Ko Dut is only a short drive from West-facing beach so another recent tradition is the celebratory evening meal on the beach to say "Thank You" to the dedicated staff and volunteers after admiring the sunset. Since the tide was out, it was possible to take motor cycles across the beach to a small monastery. Myint and Mi Mi were taken on one machine and Aung Ko Latt took me as pillion passenger on another. As I was wearing a traditional longyi, this involved riding 'side saddle', which I find great fun.

Finally, we all returned to Ko Dut in a good-natured convoy of a car and about ten Honda 'Wave' motor cycles. Once again, it was a night on the floor with another early start the following day.

Related posts

Next post describing this trip.

All my posts on this trip can be found here.

My pictures

More pictures will be posted as soon as possible.